Tag Archives: Natali Fani-Gonzalez

D18 Democratic Delegate Forum

D18DebateAl Carr, Ana Sol Gutiérrez, Jeff Waldstreicher, Emily Shetty, Natali Fani-Gonzalez, Elizabeth Matory, and Rick Kessler

I live tweeted last night’s delegate debate hosted by the D18 Democratic Caucus. Not all went through as the Bushey Theater, formerly Roundhouse Theater, has no wifi and is almost a cell phone dead zone.  Heaven for a theater but the enemy of the twitterati.

These events are great not because they change minds but because they give people a chance to know the candidates as real people and better understand what motivates them and where their real political passion lies.

DEBATE MOMENTS

Oblivious Conservatism on Education: Amazing to hear vocal criticism of basing education funding on a county’s wealth and support for directing it based on the number of students from candidates trying to outdo one another as the most progressive. So two counties with the same number of students should receive the same funds from the State even if one is twice as wealthy?

This populist railing against overcrowded schools will likely fly well with the voters. But conservatives will quite rightly roll their eyes at the incoherent pairing of this call for “fairness” with simultaneous demands for more taxes on the wealthy to pay for services for people striving their way up the ladder.

Smackdown! Moderator Charles Duffy saying to Jeff Waldstreicher “I guess we can move on if you’re not going to answer the question” after Jeff’s answer on school construction. Natali Fani-Gonzalez also took Jeff to task for expressing pride helping to bring an insufficient $40 million back to MoCo for school construction.

Boom. Liz Matory stated “our delegation in the House of Delegates is considered the weakest in the State of Maryland” in arguing her case for a new, more effective delegation. Direct contrast with Ana’s highlighting her seniority on the Appropriations Committee and Jeff doing the same on the Judiciary Committee.

New D18 Drinking Game: Drink when Rick Kessler says “ATM” or anyone says “bringing people together.” Seriously, I was getting worried that someone was going to break out singing “People. People who need people.”

Taxes and Economic Justice: Repeated calls for more taxes on high-income earners and big corporations in this district with some of the wealthiest precincts in the State, though also areas that need a hand. Much support for combined reported and closing the achievement gap. Liz Matory provided a contrast with her concern that current tax rates are making it more difficult to attract business to Montgomery.

No Discussion. Environment. Health Care.

CHALLENGERS

Natali Fani-Gonzalez Strengths: Unquestionably in command when she had the mike, Natali articulated a strong passion for economic justice backed by business and lobbying experience along with an inspiring personal story. Clear winner of the first half of the debate.

Elizabeth Matory Strengths: Forceful and willing to call it as she sees it and aware of the need to attract business to Maryland. Many  with business experience sound arrogant and windy as they talk about how they’ll bring it to bear on government. Not Liz. She communicated well how she’d marry her business smarts to politics.

Rick Kessler Strengths: On message as any presidential candidate, Rick drilled into my head that Montgomery County should not be the State of Maryland’s ATM. Rick clearly gets that candidates must repeat, repeat, repeat to get their message across.

Emily Shetty Strengths: Harnessed her personal history effectively to help show the grounding for her agenda. Drove home her support for more money for schools in Montgomery. @AbeSaffer is her not-so-secret Twitter weapon.

INCUMBENTS

Al Carr Strengths: Calm and relaxed, Al sounds like a real person doing his best to work pragmatically on problems rather than a pol. He highlighted concrete achievements in making our state government more genuinely transparent despite opposition.

Ana Sol Gutiérrez Strengths: Still passionate after twenty years in elected office. No one gets to the left of Ana in a debate–not a bad place to be in the Democratic primary. A very American immigrant story that paved the way for others on the stage.

Jeff Waldstreicher Strengths: No constituent problem is too small. Proud to be Delegate Pothole, Jeff’s opening statement highlighted his success in getting the A/C turned on in a county facility so a Bar Mitzvah could move ahead even though his child was sick. Gave out his cell number.

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NARAL Pro-Choice Final Endorsements

NARAL_logoI’m listing them by legislative district with non-incumbents highlighted in boldface. The one Republican endorsee in District 15 has an (R) after his name.

NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland is also issuing qualified non-endorsees with their 100% Pro-Choice rating. This may devalue their endorsement, as voters will likely be oblivious to seeing one versus the other. Some incumbents who received the endorsement are less than thrilled by this tack by NARAL.

You can revisit the controversy over the non-endorsement of Natali Fani-Gonzalez for delegate in District 18 here and here.

District 3
House: Nicholas Bouquet (3A)

District 8
Senate: Kathy Klausmeier

District 9
Senate: Ryan Frederic
House: Tom Coale (9B)

District 10
Senate: Delores Kelley
House: Adrienne Jones, Robert Johnson

District 11
House: Dan Morhaim, Dana Stein

District 12
Senate: Ed Kasemeyer
House: Terri Hill, Clarence Lam, Adam Sachs

District 13
Senate: Guy Guzzone
House: Sane Pendergrass, Frank Turner

District 14
Senate: Karen Montgomery
House: Anne Kaiser, Eric Luedtke, Craig Zucker

District 15
Senate: Brian Feldman
House: Kathleen Dumais, Aruna Miller, David Fraser-Hidalgo, Ed Edmunson (R)

District 16
Senate: Susan Lee
House: Ariana Kelly, Bill Frick, Marc Korman

District 17
Senate: Cheryl Kagan
House: Kumar Barve, Jim Gilchrist, Andrew Platt

District 18
Senate: Rich Madaleno
House: Al Carr, Ana Sol Gutiérrez, Jeff Waldstreicher

District 19
Senate: Roger Manno
House: Bonnie Cullison, Ben Kramer, Marice Morales

District 20
Senate: Jamie Raskin
House: Sheila Hixson, David Moon, Jonathan Shurberg

District 21
House: Barbara Frush, Joseline Peña-Melnyk

District 22
Senate: Paul Pinsky
House: Tawanna Gaines

District 25
Senate: Ulysses Currie
House: Angela Angel, Stanley Onye

District 27
House: Sue Kullen (27C)

District 30
Senate: John Astle
House: Mike Busch (30A)

District 39
Senate: Nancy King
House: Charles Barkley, Kirill Reznik, Shane Robinson

District 40
House: Marvin “Doc” Cheatham

District 41
House: Sandy Rosenberg

District 42
Senate: Jim Brochin
House: Steve Lafferty (42A)

District 43
House: Maggie McIntosh, Mary Washington

District 46
Senate: Bill Ferguson
House: Pete Hammen, Luke Clippinger, Brooke Lierman

District 47
Senate: Victor Ramirez
House: James Tarlau (47A)

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NARAL Pro-Choice’s Unique Endorsement Strategy

NARAL_logoNARAL Pro-Choice Maryland’s PAC is following an endorsement strategy this year that bears comment even leaving aside the controversy over its endorsements raised earlier today here in the exchange between District 18 Candidate Natali Fani-Gonzalez and NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland’s PAC.

Most interest groups endorse up to as many candidates as there are seats to be filled. Occasionally, groups will endorse more candidates that there are seats available. For example, the League of Conservation Voters endorsed four candidates for the three House of Delegate seats in District 18.

NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland’s PAC has taken a unique two-tier approach. The PAC endorses up to as many candidates as there are seats up for election. At the same time, they all give a “100% Pro-Choice” rating to other eligible candidates that do no receive the endorsement.

Like the endorsement, candidates are free to tout this 100% Pro-Choice rating in the literature and other communications. I already received a blast email from Jordan Cooper proudly touting his rating in strongly pro-choice District 16.

Is the PAC devaluing NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland’s endorsement? After all, voters are unlikely to distinguish easily between the endorsement and the 100% Pro-Choice rating. Candidates are less likely to sweat their endorsement process since the consolation prize is such a good one.

While this strategy encourages all candidates to take strong pro-choice positions even if they are unlikely to receive the PAC’s official endorsement, it somewhat weakens the incentive for incumbents to cultivate their support during the legislative session that makes policy.

I suppose it also makes the endorsement process a bit easier as the decision makers know that good candidates who don’t get the endorsement won’t walk away empty handed. We’ll see how it goes and if other organizations follow NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland PAC’s lead.

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NARAL Pro-Choice MD Responds

NARAL_logoNARAL Pro-Choice Maryland PAC sent me the following statement in response to the earlier post on Seventh State regarding their endorsements in District 18:

The NPCM PAC recently made a clerical error that had a large and unfortunate impact. We understand the magnitude of our error and apologize for the confusion it has caused. We have reached out to each of the candidates, including Ms. Natali Fani-Gonzalez. The NARAL PAC board endorsed the incumbent candidates from District 18. We mistakenly issued an endorsement to a fourth candidate who was intended to receive a 100% Pro-Choice rating, which is used for candidates who do not receive an endorsement but reflects their Pro-Choice values.

I would have been very surprised if the PAC had not endorsed the incumbents, as they all are very supportive of reproductive freedom and I am not aware of any actions they have taken that would cause disgruntlement from NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland.

When I received, Natali Fani-Gonzalez’s communication, I thought perhaps their PAC had intended to endorse her either as a fourth candidate or in place of one of the incumbents because they thought she would be an exceptionally strong leader on the issue.

You can read Natali Fani-Gonzalez’s thoughts on the matter as well as the PAC’s response above and draw your own conclusions.

 

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D18 NARAL Endorsement Controversy

NARAL_logo
Natali Fani-Gonzalez, one of the challengers to the three incumbent delegates in District 18, was naturally thrilled to receive the following email from Maida Schifter’s email account with NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland on April 4th:

Dear Natali,

I would like to congratulate you on earning NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland’s PAC endorsement.  We are excited about your candidacy and look forward to working with you as we advance the agenda for reproductive rights in Maryland.

We will be issuing a press release and posting to social media about our endorsement on or about April 14 and at that time will also make available an NCPM ENDORSED logo for your use.  Our staff will be happy to answer any questions you or your campaign may have.

Thank you for your service.

Warmest regards,
Edward Terry
PAC Chair

Endorsements like these serve a number of valuable purposes. In strongly pro-choice districts like D18, it serves as an excellent imprimatur that the candidate is “right” on a set of issues important to voters. They are especially valuable for challengers as they further attest to the seriousness and often viability of a campaign–great for helping to attract additional support.

However, it apparently was not meant to be. NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland PAC Chair Edward Terry called to say that the letter had been mistakenly sent out by an intern. Here is Natali Fani-Gonzalez’s email response to that phone call which she sent yesterday on April 9th:

Hi Maida –
I have just received a phone call (8:24 pm) from your NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland PAC Chair Edward Terry.  He stated that you are an intern at NARAL Pro-Choice and that you mistakenly sent me an endorsement letter five days ago (your email below) on behalf of your organization. Moreover, I received a phone call from NARAL a few days before your endorsement announcement to further inquire about my answer with regards to the taboo of reproductive-rights within the Latino community. During the call, I was also informed that my answers to the questionnaire were great.Excited about the news, I announced your endorsement via Twitter and received lots of great feedback.However, Mr. Terry’s story is flawed:

2. I know that incumbents in D18 were disconcerted with the endorsement.
3. I know that a “serious organization” such as NARAL will never allow interns to distribute sensitive information such as political endorsements.

Over the past decade, I have been part of numerous Boards, including Goucher College, Emerge Maryland, the Maryland Latino Coalition for Justice, to name a few.Therefore, I would appreciate if you do not insult my intelligence with such frivolous rationalization.
The true story: you decided to take back my endorsement under external forces’ pressure.

Respectfully,
Natali Fani-Gonzalez

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Brown Comes to Gansler’s Backyard

This Wednesday night from 6-7pm, District 18 Delegate Candidate Natali Fani-González is hosting a meet-and-greet (not a fundraiser) for Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, candidates for governor and lieutenant governor.

Attorney General Doug Gansler, one of Brown’s competitors, went to elementary school in the district. Much of it should be considered his home turf, as he is well-known and has deep roots in the area, though he now lives in adjoining District 16.

Sen. Rich Madaleno, Del. Al Carr, and Del. Ana Sol Gutiérrez have endorsed Gansler. Del. Jeff Waldstreicher originally planned to support Gansler but shifted his support to Brown–a step that received more attention than usual as Gansler included him on a list of supporters because he thought he still had his support.

While Fani-González has not announced an endorsement from Brown, it would not be at odds with talk of competing slates allied with either Brown or Gansler in other districts. This could be a tad awkward for Waldstreicher as he is on a team with the other incumbents who have endorsed Gansler.

For Brown, it could be a promising way to build alliances and support in District 18 and also with Fani-González, who is active and works in politics and a variety of Democratic causes. She has the potential to continue to rise regardless of the outcome of this race.

On the other hand, if Brown expects to become Governor, he wants to maintain good relations with legislators who might not appreciate his support for a challenger. Of course, they will also need to repair relationships if he wins, so it’s a complicated relationship that works both ways, especially since Maryland’s governor is very powerful.

There is also some risk attached for Fani-González because her link with Brown might not thrill Gansler supporters. Nevertheless, she has far more to gain from an endorsement from a statewide figure of Brown’s stature even if two incumbents have been endorsed by Gansler who should do well in D18.

On a similar note, Candidate Liz Matory has received support from former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder and former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke. Both are major figures with Wilder holding a particular place of honor as the first African-American governor in modern times. I am not sure how much weight either carry in District 18, though they could help her gain African-American support if communicated to voters.

And the value and the communication of endorsements are really the keys. They just don’t matter if the voters don’t know about them. And, of course, the voter has to value the endorser’s opinion in order for it work as a signal or cue to voters.

No doubt more to come as the session comes to end and primaries continue to heat up.

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Kessler Main Threat to D18 Delegates

kessler

This morning, I profiled the incumbents in the District 18 delegate race. Now, I assess the strength of the four challengers.

CHALLENGERS

Rick Kessler has $69K in his campaign account after having raised $84K last year. $5K came from people with the Kessler surname. Rick’s donor list reads more national and Capitol Hill than the incumbents, though he has many local donors.

His donors tended to have the opposite profile of Al’s, as many gave larger amounts of $250 or more. Another $6K arrived from PACs, including $4K from Dow Lohnes, a law firm. $1K from Rep. John Dingell’s (D MI) PAC, and $1K from Rep. Frank Pallone’s  (D NJ) PAC. Dingell is a past boss.

Rick strikes me as the greatest threat to the sitting delegates. He has been active in the district for a long time and is well-liked with Central Committee Member Vic Weissberg chairing his campaign. Beyond raising the second-highest sum of all candidates, Rick knows how to run a campaign and will do well at the doors. The sitting delegates will no doubt be unhappy at the thought that he can raise even more money during the legislative session but they can’t.

Elizabeth Matory has $16K left in her campaign account, though she has raised $26K. Relatives account for a little less than one-fifth of all of her donations. Liz has received some support from two in-district local elected officials, Kensington Mayor Fosselman and Kensington Councilmember Paul Sexton.

She has a degree from Columbia, a law degree from Howard, and is completing her MBA at Maryland, and works in nonprofit fundraising. Nevertheless, I suspect that the main problem for this otherwise appealing candidate is a lack of funds. Liz has yet to raise enough to mount a competitive campaign against three incumbents.

Emily Shetty has just $10K in her campaign account. Roughly one-quarter came from people who share her surname. Emily works at the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society with Lisa Fadden, extremely talented, well-liked, and well-connected in Montgomery politics. She also served recently as the Program Director for the MoCo Young Democrats and previously worked as the legislative director for now retired New York Rep. Ed Towns.

Unfortunately for Emily, she is not well-known in the district and does not have the funds to compete. On Facebook, she has been friendly with Rich Madaleno’s opponent but seems reluctant to turn it into a slate, likely because it would close off a lot of avenues not just in this campaign but the future.

Natali Fani-Gonzalez has raised essentially no money–she filed an affidavit attesting to having raised and spent under $1K. A Latina, she filed in the mistaken belief that Ana was not going to run and would support her bid. Natali attends a lot of events but there is no sign of a campaign that would raise her profile among voters.

UPDATE: I have learned once again not to estimate age based on photos (face palm). Natali Fani-Gonzalez may be unhappy not to be described as young (as in the original version of this post) in our youth-oriented culture but she is older than I realized.

Also more successful. Natali is a businesswoman who heads a public relations firm that works for a variety of progressive organizations from unions to promoting healthcare. Perhaps most prominently, she previously worked as a lobbyist for CASA de Maryland on the highly successful push for the MD Dream Act.

She still needs a lot more money that she reported in January if she wishes to run a viable campaign for this seat but also has the resume of a potentially strong candidate.

BOTTOM LINE

Only Rick Kessler seems positioned to have a real shot at toppling an incumbent. The other challengers may influence the outcome by taking votes from this or that candidate but it’s hard to see their path to victory.

Even Rick has a tough road because he has not only to attract votes but also see one incumbent’s votes reduced sufficiently to become endangered. But Rick has key ingredients–an attractive candidate, sufficient funds, and knowledge about how to campaign–to capitalize on opportunities. Rick’s chances will rise if the three incumbents ultimately fail to form a united slate as it would render the situation more fluid.

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